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Nutrition for Infants and Children

How to Choose the Right Formula for Your Infant

Before you give up on breast–feeding…. Breast–feeding is usually awkward at first and can sometimes even be painful. This surprises new mothers, who may be tempted to abandon breast–feeding. But if you stick with it, you'll soon get past this awkward stage, and you'll be glad you did. If you have questions or need a bit of encouragement, call your local La Leche League, an international breast-feeding support organization. Find out more at www.LaLecheLeague.org.

An alternative to formula is “breast milk banking.” Hospitals in some areas may be able to provide you with human breast milk for your baby. Contact your local hospital’s pediatrics department or your local La Leche League, to find out more about whether “milk banking” is available in your area.

If you need to use formula, many different kinds are available. The best choice is a commercial soy formula. Please note: It is important to use soy formula, which is specifically made for infants younger than twelve months, and not commercial soymilk, which is intended for older children and adults.

Babies have special nutritional needs and require a formula designed to meet them. Formulas have slightly higher levels of protein and lower levels of fat than breast milk (see the table below), but they are designed to meet the needs of an infant.

The reasons for choosing soy formula over cow’s milk formula are compelling:

  • Most food sensitivities are reactions to proteins. The proteins found in breast milk are intended for human babies (with the exception of those foreign proteins that may pass into the milk from the mother’s diet).
  • Cow’s milk formula contains proteins that would be tolerated by a calf, but not always by a human baby. These proteins can cause respiratory problems, canker sores, skin conditions, and other sensitivities.
  • Cow’s milk can also irritate a baby’s digestive tract, causing a loss of blood in the intestine and a gradual loss of iron. For these reasons, pediatricians never recommend that whole cow’s milk (as opposed to formula) be given to infants.
  • When foreign proteins enter the body, the immune system makes antibodies to them. As long ago as 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that substantial evidence based on more than 90 research studies suggests that antibodies to cow’s milk protein may increase the risk of type I diabetes.
Comparing Human Milk and Baby Formulas (per cup)
  Human Milk Soy Formula (ProSobee) Cow’s Milk Formula
(Enfamil)
Calories
176
160
160
Protein (g)
2.4
4.8
3.2
Fat (g)
11.2
8.8
8.8
Saturated fat (g)
4.8
4.0
4.0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
4.0
1.6
1.6
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
1.6
2.4
2.4
Carbohydrate (g)
16.8
16.0
16.8
Folic Acid (mcg)
16
24
24
Vitamin C (mg)
16
16
16
Sodium (mg)
40
56
40
Iron (mg)
0.08
3.0
0.24
Calcium (mg)
80
152
112

Source: Pennington, JAT. Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. (Philadelphia: Lippincott–Raven, 1998)